News of Time Inc.’s US$1.85bn acquisition by Meredith made it all the way to the Hollywood Reporter in November, as traditional magazine media was cast into the spotlight. Meanwhile, leading social mediums including Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat all experienced significant technical updates during the month. Here we look at five key media tech trends to hit the headlines in November.
Acquiring Time for Meredith
Late night on Sunday 26th November, Time Inc. was sold to Meredith Corporation for a reported $1.85bn, in an explosive deal dubbed “a truly transformative moment” by Meredith CEO, Steve Lacy. The move comes at a strong moment in time for the publisher, who we reported as having achieved record audience figures in October 2017 with 139 million monthly unique views, representing a year-on-year increase of 27 per cent.
The Time Inc. portfolio includes flagship brands like People, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated, which will now join the existing Meredith portfolio with titles like Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, and Shape. The Guardian reports that the acquisition will create a $5bn media and marketing giant, with an overall readership of 135 million people and a paid circulation of nearly 60m.
Some critics have argued that the deal contains controversy, principally relating to a $650m stake being invested by the Koch brothers, who in recent years have demonstrated a vocal political agenda. However, Meredith have strongly played down this influence, saying in a statement relating to the deal that: “Koch Equity Development will not have a seat on the Meredith board and will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.”
Twitter increased its character length from 140 to 280 characters in November, allowing users to post significantly more text in a single tweet. The move was initially met with scepticism by the Twitterati, many of whom argued that the change would remove the short-hand uniqueness from the platform and lose a key stylistic trait, in a similar way to the loss of the ‘Six second video’ with the demise of Vine. However, initial animosity appears to have died down and even the President of the US, Donald Trump – arguably now the World’s most famous tweeter – has taken advantage of the new character length. The BBC reports that the site currently has 330 million active users. This compares with 800 million for Instagram and more than 2 billion users for Facebook.
As Twitter moved from micro to medium-sized blogging, there were big changes too for other leading social media platforms in November. A WhatsApp update now means that users can watch YouTube videos directly within an open chat window, as opposed to bouncing off to the YouTube app as soon as they click on a video link. This represents a significant step in the development of WhatsApp, and brings the platform closer to becoming the kind of interactive video messaging platform that many analysts have long-since predicated will usher in the new age of social media.
Interestingly, Snapchat went the other way, separating media content out from conversation as part of a wider design overhaul. Messages from friends will now be shown to the left of the app, with professional media content being shown to the right via Snapchat’s discovery platform. This update deliberately sets out to separate conversations with friends from a feed of content from professional publishers and public figures, being reported by Business Insider as “a bet that Snapchat users care enough to seek out news and entertainment in the app.” With the wider trend within social right now being for greater content-conversation convergence, it will be interesting to see if they do.
Now being met annually with increasing enthusiasm, the day after Thanksgiving in the US has turned into a global shopping phenomenon. Dubbed ‘Black Friday’ the final weekday of the month now represents the point at which consumers go out (or stay in) and spend big, representing the beginning of the holiday shopping season. For publishers, this is big news, as ad-earnings can often soar in the fourth quarter of the year, as retailers seek shop windows through which to promote their goods. The Drum reports that Friday 24th November 2017 set a new publisher earning record, in an interesting article considering the impact of Black Friday on the wider digital media industry.
Advertising agencies struggle
While November’s Black Friday boost provided some positive news for publishers, more recently the wider trend in the advertising sector of the industry has begun to look less promising. The FT reported that WPP, Publicis, Omnicom and Interpublic have all suffered this year as marketers begin to shift focus within the changing digital landscape. While some of this downturn can be attributed to the growing prominence of Facebook and Google, it also reflects a wider industry trend that we have been reporting on on the FIPP website for some time, as traditional digital advertising models begin to make way for more innovative solutions. It represents an intriguing opportunity for legacy media brands, and is something that we looked at ourselves in an article at the beginning of the month.
Reproduced by kind permission of our friends at FIPP, the network for global media